Here’s the link to part 1 https://virginia-neely-author.ca/the-vacation-part-1/
Sue woke up gasping for breath. She could have baked a cake in the tent, though it was still early morning. Jason was whimpering, his face bright red. He had no interest in feeding. Maybe he was suffering from heatstroke. Sue ripped off his clothes and raced to the lake, where she sat in the shallows, holding him and bathing his face and head with the cool water.
The other kids were already splashing around under Betty’s hawk eye.
“What’s the matter with Jason?” asked Joey. “He looks funny.”
“He’s just hot.”
“Yup. We were too.”
Joey paddled back over to Ben, and the two of them splashed Sam until her shrieks punctured Sue’s eardrums.
“That’s enough, boys! Play nice with Sam.”
Grumbling, the boys flounced to the dock, where they took turns jumping off the end and paddling back to the beach. Neither of them could swim properly and it would be a miracle if they didn’t drown. That might be a mercy for all concerned. What a rotten mother she must be to think such a thing.
Sue looked down at Jason, whose face was less red than before, and sighed. “Couldn’t you have been a girl? You’re going to turn out just like those two.”
Betty settled down beside her. “Don’t kid yourself. Girls come with their own set of problems.”
“So the men took off again?” Obviously, since they were nowhere to be seen.
“Yeah. Derek said there was a spot they wanted to check out.”
“And they couldn’t take the boys?”
Betty shrugged. “Maybe tomorrow.”
After hours of sun reflected off the water, all three kids were the same colour Jason had been in the morning. So much for waterproof sunscreen.
Sue dug out the diaper cream and slathered it over the kids, ignoring their outrage. So what if she put it on the baby’s bum? Zinc was healing, and the white cream helped to block the sun.
The boys drew x and o squares in the cream on Sam’s back. Of course she cried. And of course they made fun of her for being a baby. Betty doled out the last of the snacks to enforce a peace treaty.
After what seemed like a six month delay, Bob and Derek putt-putted back to the dock. They were sunburned, too.
“Catch anything?” asked Sue.
“No. That spot was no good either. What’s for supper?”
“Fish. When you catch it. And clean it. And cook it.”
“You women are supposed to…” Bob choked off whatever he was going to say and ducked the finger targeting his face.
“You chauvinistic son of a … This is supposed to be our vacation too. We’ve used up all the food we brought with us. You said you would be providing fish. Now it’s your problem.”
Sue turned and stomped off toward the woods. “And you can start doing your share of the parenting, too!” she yelled over her shoulder.
As she tromped along a path leading who-knows-and-who-cares-where, the boat engine roared into life. Wherever those men were going, they damn well better have the kids with them. She vented her anger on the mosquitoes swarming her face and returned to the camp.
“The men took the boys to the marina to buy some groceries,” Betty said. “I told them to get more ice for the coolers, too.”
Half an hour later, the men returned with both coolers full of ice, a package of wieners, buns, five mega-packs of chips, several large bottles of Coke and two cases of beer.
Derek grinned cheerfully. “All set now!”
Sue sighed. If men had been responsible for meals, the race would have died out long ago. The boys, being men-in-training, thought chips and Coke made a great supper. Sam whined they hadn’t bought ginger ale. She didn’t like Coke.
If a wormhole to another galaxy had opened in front of her, Sue would have jumped into it without hesitation.
After the women’s haranguing the previous night, Bob and Derek hung around long enough to feed the kids breakfast (chips, what else?) and promise to take them fishing later.
Jason barfed on his last clean outfit. Sam complained her favourite tee, the one with a Disney princess on it, was dirty.
“Can you take us to a laundromat?” asked Betty.
Derek snorted. “Who cares about clean clothes? We’re on vacation. Just wear it swimming, Sam. That’ll clean it.” With that, he signalled to Bob and they headed to the dock, repeating their promises to Joey and Ben, who dogged their footsteps.
The kids splashed around in the water for a while but soon became bored.
“Aw, there’s nothing to do here except swim. I’m tired of swimming,” complained Joey.
“Let’s make a fort in the woods,” Ben suggested. “No girls allowed.” He and Joey raced off.
“Who wants to play in your stupid fort anyway?” Sam’s clouded eyes belied her words.
“That’s all right, honey.” Betty hugged her. “Why don’t you look for berries? If you find some, we can have them for desert tonight.”
Sam’s face cleared, and she ran to get the pail she’d been playing with on the beach. A few minutes later, she too disappeared into the woods.
When she returned an hour later, she was crying. “It hurts. It hurts.”
“Oh, no!” Betty gasped. Sam’s skin, already red from sunburn, was now scarlet. Her arms and legs were covered with scratches, interlaced by an angry rash.
“Looks like poison ivy,” said Sue. “We should have known. It’s probably all over her clothes, too.”
“Well that’s the last straw!” Betty’s face was almost as red as Sam’s. She undressed Sam, careful not to contaminate her skin further, then took her down to the beach and washed off as much irritant as she could before slathering her with diaper cream, again. Sam’s shrill cries punctuated every motion.
After scooping Sam’s discarded clothing into a plastic bag and tossing it in the trash, she plunked down beside Sue.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it,” she said.
“Me too,” said Sue.
After a good deal of discussion, they worked out a plan.
When the boys showed up for lunch (the last of the hot dogs) Sue explained it to the kids. “We’re going somewhere special tomorrow. We need to wake up early and be very quiet. And don’t tell your fathers. It’s a secret. If you tell them, we can’t go.”
Of course, it’s hard for kids to keep secret that they’ve got a secret. They alluded to it several times over the course of the evening. Sue could hardly keep from laughing at Bob and Derek’s puzzled frowns.
The promised “fishing trip” was about what Sue expected. Fifteen minutes after the men left with the two excited boys, they were back. Joey had tangled his line in some debris and Bob had had to cut it free, losing one of his favourite lures in the process. Ben had to pee but refused to do it standing in the boat and aiming out over the water.
“They’re too young to go fishing with us,” grumbled Bob. Like he’d never been a kid.
Jason had managed to go through all the diapers Sue had packed. She should have left him naked most of the time, but it was too late for that now. She tied a make-shift diaper from a towel around his chubby bottom. After nursing him, it was time to wake Joey. Dawn was still not much more than a promise. Bob was still snoring.
Placing a hand gently over Joey’s mouth, in case he made a sound, she shook him gently. “Be as quiet as you can,” she whispered. Luckily, Jason had fallen asleep again.
Joey nodded vigorously as he slipped out of his sleeping bag and into the same clothes he’d worn the day before. A minute later they were outside. Betty was waiting, with Ben and Sam.
“Let’s go,” Sue said in a loud whisper. “Try not to make any noise.”
They tiptoed down to the dock and climbed into the boat. Sue started it. The noise would probably wake the men, but who cared? She steered the boat alongside the marina’s dock and tossed the mooring rope to the attendant. When everyone had disembarked, she led them to the store.
While Betty helped the kids select food for breakfast, Sue wrote a note to Bob.
Bob, (right now he wasn’t very dear, so she left that out) we have taken the kids somewhere we can have fun too. You and Derek can enjoy your vacation alone, which is pretty much what you’ve been doing. Have fun packing up and cleaning up. See you in a few days. Sue
She turned to the attendant. “Can you deliver this to Bob over on the island? And can you take the boat back to him?”
The attendant said he could, for a fee.
“Thanks so much.” She slipped him a twenty-dollar tip.
Both families piled into Betty’s car and headed home.
Sue’s shower had never been so inviting. Nor had her bed. Even Joey was happy to be back among his toys.
Sue and Betty hadn’t explained the whole plan to the kids, despite their questions. They bundled them into the car with suitcases of clean (YES!!) clothes. A short time later, they checked into Wild ‘n’Wonderful theme park.
“Wow, Mom! Super!” said Joey. “Can we go on some rides?”
“All the rides you want,” Sue replied. She tied a bracelet around his wrist. “Don’t lose this. When you want a ride or a snack, the man will scan this and you can have it.”
The bracelet was linked to Bob’s credit card. Sue hoped Joey would have hundreds of rides and eat so much he could hardly move.
“Oh, yes, and you can use it in the gift shop too.”
“Awesome!. C’mon, Ben. Let’s see what they got!”
Betty finished tying similar bracelets around Ben and Sam’s wrists. “I bet they have princess dresses in the gift shop. And get a new tee shirt too,” she whispered to Sam, winking at Sue.
“I’m going to check Jason in at the day care, and then I plan on spending the whole day at the spa,” Sue said.
It was. An hour-long massage, hot stones treatment, manicure, pedicure, face mask. By lunch time, the ravages of their camping vacation had been wiped away. They lay on lounges on the patio, eating a gourmet meal prepared by someone else, sipping mimosas, and looking forward to another massage and hairstyle.
“I suppose we should check on the kids,” Betty murmured.
“No need. Those bracelets track them. See? ” Sue held out her phone, where a blinking yellow blob indicated Joey’s whereabouts on a map of the park. “We can find them if we want, or they can ask any attendant to call us. And I don’t even have to feed Jason. They’ll give him a bottle. This is my idea of a real vacation.”
“I agree.” Betty grinned at her.
Late in the afternoon, they strolled to the gift shop to collect Sam (and her twenty or so purchases), to the petting zoo to collect the boys, and then to the restaurant for supper. They tucked tired but happy kids into their beds, then sat on the balcony of their suite, enjoying the sunset and a bottle of rather expensive wine.
The boys gulped down breakfast, then hurried off for another day of rides and treasure hunting. Sam decided she wanted to have her hair styled like a princess and her nails painted, so it was her turn for the spa. Betty and Sue lounged by the pool and read magazines about the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
By late afternoon, the boys and Sam converged on the women, having exhausted the park’s possibilities.
“Can we go home now?” asked Joey. “I can’t wait to show my friends all the new stuff I got.” Ben nodded enthusiastically.
Sue ruffled his hair. “Sure thing, Joey. Maybe Dad’s already home.”
When they settled the bill, Sue whistled. “Boy, Joey sure did get a lot of stuff.”
Betty laughed. “So did Ben and Sam. I can’t wait to see the look on Derek’s face when he gets the Visa bill.
It was evening by the time the men came home. They didn’t act like men who’d just had a relaxing vacation. There was no hint of a smile on their faces as they dragged the camping equipment out of Bob’s car and dumped it in the hall.
“Thanks a lot, Sue,” Bob muttered. “Leaving us with all the mess to take care of. Do you have any idea how bad week-old diapers smell?”
“You should have thought of that when you planned that so-called vacation. The next time you have one of these hare-brained schemes, count me out.”
“Aw, honey, I meant for it to be fun for you, too. So what did you girls do after you left?”
Sue told him. His face imitated a Facebook emoticon, all big Os for eyes and mouth. “That’s kind of expensive, don’t you think?”
“Not as expensive as a divorce.” She held out the bill for the camping equipment. “And this wasn’t cheap, either, even before renting a campsite and boat.”
“But we can use it again. Next time will be better. We’ll have more experience. We can plan better.” His eyes got a faraway look, like he was already planning it.
“Don’t. Ever. Mention. It. Again. Or I’ll be forced to use this bit of equipment.” She picked up the expensive knife he had used only to cut fishing line, and tossed it from one hand to another. “If you’re lucky, it will be on your throat. If not…”
Bob gulped. Some things were just too precious to risk. At least they’d better be.